USS Laboon shoots down four drones in Red Sea

by Tommy Grant

The Navy destroyer Laboon shot down four unmanned aerial vehicles Saturday in the Red Sea that U.S. officials say originated from Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to U.S. Central Command.

The incident is the most recent instance where U.S. warships in the Middle East have intercepted air drones and missiles, and comes exactly a week after Navy destroyer Carney took down 14 attack drones in the Red Sea.

U.S. Central Command said that the Laboon shot down the drones, which “were inbound” to the destroyer, as it conducted a patrol in the Southern Red Sea as part of a multinational security initiative to safeguard commercial ships. No injuries or damage occurred due to the incident.

After shooting down the drones, the Laboon responded to distress calls after two commercial vessels came under attack on Saturday.

“The M/V BLAAMANEN, a Norwegian-flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker, reported a near miss of a Houthi one-way attack drone with no injuries or damage reported,” CENTCOM said in a statement Saturday. “A second vessel, the M/V SAIBABA, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker, reported that it was hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported. The USS LABOON (DDG 58) responded to the distress calls from these attacks.”

“These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since Oct. 17,” CENTCOM said.

CENTCOM also said that two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday, but that no ships reported being harmed during that episode.

The Laboon, in addition to destroyers Carney and Mason, have all taken down drones in recent weeks and provided help to commercial vessels amid heightened tensions in the region stemming from the Israel-Hamas war.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement earlier this month that the U.S. has “every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran.” In response to the attacks, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Dec. 18 the creation of a multinational task force to help protect civilian ships in the region.

The Laboon is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower’s carrier strike group, which departed Norfolk, Virginia, in October for a scheduled deployment. The carrier transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf last month.

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